Bees, Butterflies, BMPs, oh my!

This semester I’m interning with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and focusing on pollinator best management practices. So what exactly are all these things? The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is an extremely large government organization, and the National Wildlife Refuges are part of it. I’m based in the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center in Manteo. The mission of the National Wildlife Refuges is to: “administer a nation

al network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.” Essentially, this is done through management of the environment.

Best management practices (BMPs) are well-designed tools that allow USFWS to manage the environment in the best possible manner and may target specific species, such as pollinators. Basically, pollinators are any type of organisms that pollinate plants. The best examples are bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds, moths, and beetles. And, if you’re up to date on your pollinator news, you know that our superstar bee populations are in rapid decline. They’ve created so much buzz that the White House even released a report and strategy in May 2015 to increase the bee and pollinator populations!

Leading this movement from Alligator River Wildlife Refuge is my mentor Becky Harrison. Becky is the Assistant Coordinator of the Red Wolf Recovery Program and the Southeast Regional Pollinator Coordinator. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. Through a series of long car rides, we’ve been able to get to know each other on a professional and personal level, and that is something I wasn’t sure if I could expect or not back in September. We’ve had a lot of ground to cover, but I think we make a good team.

The “Southeast Region” goes from NC to Texas and includes the Caribbean, but our focus for this project is in Northeastern North Carolina. We’ve spent the semester visiting Wildlife Refuges in the area, including Alligator River, Mackay Island, Mattamaskeet, Pocosin Lakes, Roanoke River, and the Edenton Hatchery, and assessing their management practices in terms of pollinators. Incredibly, all of these refuges have pollinator gardens and are ready to take on the challenge of increasing pollinator populations and education.

I consider myself lucky to have seen such a vast array of northeastern North Carolina environments, and not all students have been able to do that. Currently, I’m in the process of compiling all the information we collected from meetings with the various refuges. My final product will be a report highlighting pollinator management practices already in place and BMP recommendations for the future. I will also create a factsheet on pollinator BMPs in the refuges as well. Bee on the lookout!

This internship has given me experience in the office and the field, the perfect combination for someone who can’t sit still very long. I’ve met many members of the community here and worked on other pollinator projects as well, which was a huge bonus in the world of internships. Not only have I leaned about pollinators, BMPs, but I’m also able to identify more native plants in this area than I would have without this internship. And if I’ve learned anything this semester, it’s that we need to encourage planting native plants! It’s a simple way help your pollinators out and beautify the world around you.